In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating inspirational women in education from all around the world. Here are just a few of them whose efforts have made a monumental difference to education as we know it today:
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: Seton devoted her life to helping the needy and striving to provide education for all. She founded the first Catholic school for girls in the US, making education available to poor rural families, and setting up an important legacy that led to the American Catholic school system. For all she did, Seton was the first woman born in the USA to be canonized as a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
Savitribai Phule: Known as the first teacher in India, Phule was instrumental in working towards providing female education in the country at a time when it was seen as unnecessary and unacceptable. Together with her husband, the social reformer and activist Jyotirao Phule, she founded the first Indian-run girls’ school. She persevered even in the face of being harassed and bullied, fighting against female oppression. The Savitribai Phule Pune University is named in her honour.
Elizabeth Blackwell: Blackwell made history as the first woman to be accepted to medical school and receive a medical degree in the United States, graduating at the top of her class. She faced intense prejudice, but eventually opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children with her younger sister, Dr Emily Blackwell, and Dr Marie E. Zakrzewska, and its Medical College, ushering in an era of women being educated and trained to be doctors.
Malala Yousafzai: In 2012, Malala was shot in retaliation for her activism of female education in her native Pakistan. After she recovered, she started the Malala Fund, which works to give girls access to education regardless of their background or financial circumstances. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, making her the youngest ever Nobel laureate.
Jane Foss Barff: Down under in Australia, Barff became the first woman to receive a Master of Arts degree from Sydney University. A founding member of the Sydney University Women’s Society, she was a vocal campaigner for women’s education throughout her life.
Tsuda Umeko: One of the first Japanese woman to be educated overseas, Umeko was a firm believer in and staunch advocate of women’s higher education. After working as a teacher in Japan, she founded the Joshi Women’s University (later renamed Tsuda University) in Tokyo, which till today remains one of the most prestigious female higher education institutes in Japan.
The number of women who have made a difference to education around the world cannot be contained in a single list, but we hope these five have inspired you to make your own contribution to education and to helping girls all over the world.
To learn more about women’s achievements throughout history, take our International Women’s Day Quiz on Quizalize! Simply search for ‘International Women’s Day Quiz’ under ‘All Resources’.